An Example of Government Evasiveness and Misinformation

By April 28, 2020Commentary

If you wonder why I seem a little harsher on our Governor here in Minnesota the last few days, let me explanation the evolution of my thinking.  I actually like the Governor as person, what I saw of him from a distance, he seemed like a decent, intelligent person.  And I assumed he was doing what he should do–get all the facts, consult with a variety, not just one group, of experts, a make decisions in the best interest of everyone.  Over time, as I have watched the briefings day after day, while I admire his performance, he has come to seem to me to be doing the typical politician things, which I detest.  This includes providing one-sided information, refusing to admit possible errors, using subtle messaging that anyone who doesn’t agree with his approach is un-Minnesotan, and trotting people out at press briefings that only agree with what he is doing.  And I find it disgusting that he keeps talking about being data driven when he ignores all the evolving information about the real course and risks of the epidemic, while not even attempting to gather facts on what the economic and other damage from his orders would be.  So that is why I have become pretty disgruntled with his handling of the epidemic.

And here is a classic example of government at work.  A friend asked the state Department of Health communications staff a question, and here is the evasive, weaselly, messaging, non-response he received.

Question: Referring to the 286 total deaths to date, every decedent under age 70 has died in long-term care or similar setting.  The youngest person to die outside long-term care was in his 70’s.  Why is it necessary to close the schools and shut down the state to protect the at-risk population?
We have had deaths in people younger than 70 and certainly many cases in all age groups. It is necessary to take the community mitigation measures we have because all Minnesotans are at risk from COVID 19, as none of us has immunity. Some people, like those in long-term-care and those with underlying health conditions, are far more at risk than others. But if we didn’t reduce transmission in the community as we have with the stay at home order, we would see far more disease circulating and many times more serious cases that would quickly overwhelm our health care system. Then, even less-vulnerable people would not be able to get the care they needed, such as intensive care, ventilators, etc., so we would see far more deaths in people outside of the very frail and elderly. That is what has happened in places like Italy and New York.
So, let’s take a minute and parse through this.  The question was about where are the deaths occurring in people under the age of 70.  It appears that no one under that age has died other than in a long-term care facility, but the point of the question was to verify that.  The answer is a non-answer.  It just says, yes people under 70 died but doesn’t say where.  Kind of important to know, since the Governor is scaring the hell out of everyone.  Might make a difference if people knew, if I just stay out of a nursing home, I am fine.
“All Minnesotans are at risk from coronavirus.”  Yes we all the potential to be infected, but so what, what the real “risk” or “danger”.  The state has said several times that it thinks there are 100 times more infections than there are positive test results.  Since none of those people sought a test, apparently, by definition they were all asymptomatic or mild cases.  Most of the positive test results were asymptomatic or mild cases.  So for 99% plus of Minnesotans, there is zero danger.  And see the first part above, apparently, unless you are in a nursing home, if you are under the age of 70 you have zero risk of death.
“None of us have immunity.”  Also not true.  Everyone who has been infected probably does have immunity.  Not all of us are going to even be exposed.  A large number of us, especially young people, aren’t going to get infected if exposed.  “If we didn’t reduce transmission we would overwhelm the health system.”  A flat out lie.  There is absolutely nothing that suggests that there would be sufficient cases that we couldn’t provide adequate resources to treat them.  If and when the state releases the next run of its model, if it adjusts the parameters as it would have to based on the information now available, there is going to be no scenario in which the system is overwhelmed.  And the model already shows that if you just do stay-at-home for seniors, there is no shortage of capacity.  There simply is no basis for ordering everyone to stay at home.  The rest of the stuff is nonsense gibberish.  It is a complete lie that there was any shortage of health resources in New York, no one in New York says anyone died because they couldn’t get treatment.  In fact, the hospital ship that got send to New York went basically unused.  Italy may have had some issues with adequate resources, but on a per capita basis, Italy started with far fewer ICU beds, for example, than the US has, and even then it isn’t clear that people who wouldn’t have otherwise died from the disease, did so because there weren’t resources to treat them.
People wonder why there is so little respect for government.  This kind of garbage is why.

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